The League of British Muslims 

The following gives a brief chronological background of the organisation’s national and local (London Borough of Redbridge) development to date.

 

About Us 

 

Background and National Development

 

The poor race relations of the late 60s, magnified significantly by Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood Speech"[1], was the backdrop to the conception of the League of British Muslims (LBM) in 1969.

 

There was, at that time, a general fear of immigration, immigrants and the culture and faiths that they brought with them. The LBM was established in East London to address and alleviate these fears, with particular emphasis on the Muslim community, through the promotion of inter-faith activities and dissemination of factual information. It soon realised that all Muslim communities across Briton were facing similar difficulties, and then started to develop a national remit.

 

British Muslim Population Profile

 

 The United Kingdom has almost two million Muslims, forming one of the most diverse, multi-ethnic Muslim communities in the world. Most communities are the result of economic migration in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently Muslims have arrived as refugees seeking asylum. Half of the Muslim population lives in London; others settled mainly in the industrial Midlands, the northern mill towns and the west coast of Scotland.

 

There is evidence of severe discrimination and disadvantage experienced by Muslim communities, which operate as obstacles to those wanting to integrate. Tackling this disadvantage and discrimination is essential for integration, as is the cultivation among Muslims of a sense that they belong to the broader society. This requires respect for their identity as Muslims, and enhanced opportunities for their participation in all spheres of public life and in all aspects of the policymaking process.

 

British Muslims from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are having the hardest time of any group in the labour market. Unemployment levels are up to five times those of white Britons, they are more likely to get the worst jobs, the wages are lower and discrimination is commonplace.

 

In 2001 the unemployment rates for Bangladeshis was 24.6% and for Pakistanis 16%, compared with 5.4% for white people, according to the last Labour Force Survey.

 

But hard evidence about the uphill battle British Muslims face at work is sparse. No government department keeps data on Muslims and employment, as only recently has the problem of discrimination rooted in Islamophobia been recognised by the government. The information available is based on studies into race and employment, which includes data on British Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, of whom over 95% are Muslim.

 

The economic activity of Bangladeshi and Pakistani men and women is the lowest of any ethnic group. They also earn the least when in work, with more than 80% of households earning less than half the national average income, according to the latest figures. A TUC survey in 2002 found Pakistani and Bangladeshi men on average earned £150 less a week than white men, taking home £182 compared with £332. A Cabinet Office study also reported that a quarter of Bangladeshis and a fifth of Pakistanis of working age had no skills.

 

All the major statistics show British Muslims are the new under class. They are over represented in unemployment, homelessness, poor housing, low educational achievement, family dysfunction and in prisons. The upshot is that the Muslim family is under threat and disintegrating with an increase in divorce, domestic violence, youth alienation, mental illness, drug abuse and crime.

 

National Milestones

 

After its formation in 1969, the LBM began by organising meetings between Muslims, Sikh, Hindu, Christians and Jews to promote inter-faith understanding and tolerance, and this was cascaded out by church and community leaders across the communities of East London and beyond. Working groups were established with community leaders of all faiths and the police, and these were instrumental in conveying the real extent of racially motivated problems and in building the confidence of various communities in the police force.

 

Early success included a significant reduction in racist attacks on Muslims and other groups of immigrants, reduced tensions and the opening up of hitherto “no go” areas for non-white people.

 

During the late 60s, after the first wave of wage earning immigrants had settled and established themselves, the remaining family also looked to moving to Britain. This brought other difficulties of navigating through the immigration process, and of language, housing and employment.  The League began to play a significant role in assisting people through the immigration process, with language difficulties and employment matters, which develop its role in information, advice and advocacy; an element that remains key to its work today.

 

At the same time during the late 60s and early 70s, the LBM began visiting the Muslim communities of Manchester, Birmingham, Oldham, Bradford and Burnley, whom were suffering similar discrimination as the communities of East London. It is through these visits and the help that the League offered these communities to establish their own voluntary organisations in support of themselves, that the League carved out its national role as an umbrella body.

 

In 1988, the LBM bought the 99 year lease of an old school building in South Ilford (London Borough of Redbridge), establishing its first permanent base since its inception twenty years’ earlier. After significant renovations, the Ilford Community Centre (formerly the Muslim Community Centre) was inaugurated in 1990.

 

The League has continued to build on its national remit and in 2004 it published “Lagging Behind: Muslim Community of Pakistani Origin”[2], the culmination of research into the plight of Pakistani Muslim community and supported financially by the Home Office.

 

Today the League has a membership of over 450 Muslim voluntary and community groups across Britain and a network of 35 professional volunteers countrywide. It continues with its capacity building efforts, particularly in the areas of project development and management, strategic planning and fundraising.

 

Over the years the LBM has become very influential at policy development level and currently serves on a number of national fora, including the DfID’s Connections for Development (CfD)[3], Community Matters, The British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres (BASSAC)[4], National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO)[5]. The League is consulted regularly by various government departments on issues affecting the British Muslim community.

 

For further information on the League of British Muslims, contact us today 

 


 


[1] “Rivers of Blood Speech”, delivered by Enoch Powel the then Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, at the AGM of the West Midlands Conservative Party, 20th April 1968.

[2] Lagging Behind: Muslim Community of Pakistanis Origin”, A report on issues, concerns, social and public policy, commissioned and published by the League of British Muslims (UK), impeks Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0-9548095-0-5.

[3] CfD is a government initiative to help development BME voluntary organisations’ capacity to establish development projects in their country of origin.

[4] BASSAC is a membership network of community organisations. It represents its diverse membership and offers strategic support.

[5] ACEVO is a support organisation for senior executives of charities, voluntary and not for profit organisations. They offer mentoring, financial and legal advice as well as training and personal development.

 

 
 

 

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